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Just 28% Favor Leaving Social Security Unchanged

Plurality Prefers Personal Accounts Over Status Quo

Survey of 2,000 Adults

March 10-13, 2005 

No Change in Social Security

Favor 28%
Oppose 60%

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Personal Retirement Accounts

Favor 38%
Oppose 46%

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Does Bush Plan Require Younger Workers to Set Up Personal Accounts?

Yes 25%
No 47%

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Optional Personal Accounts, Benefits Guaranteed for Those Over 55

Favor 51%
Oppose 27%

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Preference

No Change 37%
Personal Accounts 45%

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March 14, 2005--Veteran Democratic operatives James Carville and Stan Greenberg have publicly wondered why President Bush and the Republican Party have not "crashed and burned" due to the Social Security debate.

A Rasmussen Reports survey helps answer that question and suggests that Democrats may be in a weaker position strategically than a top-line look at the polls would indicate.

Some Congressional Democrats have suggested that no change of any kind should be made in the nation's Social Security program. Just 28% of Americans favor that approach. That's ten-points below the level of initial support for President Bush's call for personal retirement accounts.

Sixty percent (60%) of Americans oppose a do nothing approach.

Democrats are evenly divided on the question--43% of Nancy Pelosi's party favor the leave-it-alone approach while 45% are opposed.

Republicans, by a 75% to 16% margin reject that approach. Those not affiliated with either party are nearly as strong in their opposition to doing nothing--61% of unaffiliateds oppose that approach while only 23% support it.

Additional Demographic details are available for Premium Members.

Two-thirds of Americans under 50 reject the do-nothing approach. Even a plurality (47%) of those over 65 agree that some changes are needed.

Significant confusion surrounds the debate on Social Security reform. The Rasmussen Reports survey found that 25% of Americans believe the President's approach would require young workers to set up a personal retirement account. In fact, all reform proposals would give workers a choice between staying in the current program or setting up personal accounts.

Earlier surveys have shown that large segments of the over-65 population believe their own benefits will be cut if personal retirement accounts are established. This fear remains despite President Bush's frequent declarations that benefits will be guaranteed for those 55 and over.

The impact of these misconceptions on public opinion are enormous. When asked initially about personal retirement accounts, just 38% say they favor the program and 47% are opposed.

However, when told that personal retirement accounts would be a choice, not a requirement for younger workers--and that those over 55 would be fully protected--support jumps by 13 percentage points to 51%. Even more dramatically, opposition to the plan falls by 20 points to 27%.

With those protections in place, those over 65 favor the proposal by a 42% to 31% margin. Those under 40 support the proposal by a 3-to-1 margin.

Even with those protections in place, rank-and-file Democrats oppose the plan by a narrow 45% to 33% margin. Republicans support it by a 71% to 13% margin while unaffiliateds lean in the GOP's direction, favoring reform by nearly 2-to-1 margin, 47% to 26%.

Given a straight-up choice between leaving Social Security unchanged and a proposal for personal retirement accounts (with protections as described above), 45% prefer personal retirement accounts while 37% say doing nothing would be the better path to follow.

By a 2-to-1 margin, those over 65 say doing nothing is the better option. By a similar margin, those under 40 take the opposite view. Americans from 40 to 64 are fairly evenly divided.

Republicans, by a 3-to-1 margin prefer personal retirement accounts. Democrats, by a 2-to-1 margin, say doing nothing is better than implementing personal accounts. Unaffiliateds are fairly evenly divided, but lean slightly towards personal retirement accounts..

Demographic details are available for Premium Members.

Rasmussen Reports is an electronic publishing firm specializing in the collection, publication, and distribution of public opinion polling information. We recently released Social Security: Has the Season for Reform Arrived?

Our publications provide real-time information on consumer confidence, investor confidence, employment data, the political situation, and other topics of value and interest. We provide daily updates on the economic confidence of Consumers and Investors. Our consumer data generally identifies trends two to six weeks ahead of traditional consumer confidence measures.

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This survey of 2,000 Adults was conducted by Rasmussen Reports March 10-13, 2005.  The margin of sampling error is +/- 2 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.



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